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The fright before christmas

Blake Gerard

"The Hold's Undead"

 Saylor Mercado

I remember the day it started. It was Christmas Eve, and I was six years old. Santa was going to bring me everything I wanted for Christmas, so I couldn’t fall asleep. What could possibly be more exciting for a six-year-old boy? I tossed and turned in my bed, my mind racing and thinking about everything I would get the next day. Then it happened.


My bedroom was upstairs, my bed next to the window. I peered out the window to see if I could find Santa. I didn’t. I couldn’t see anything, it was pitch black outside. I pressed my face up against the glass and cupped my hands around my eyes to see better. Then I saw him, standing at the edge of the treeline.


“Santa!” I exclaimed to myself in my empty room.  


“Hey, Santa!  Do you have any presents for me?” I called out.


He looked at me. I smiled at him even though I couldn’t make out his face. He started walking towards my house.  Geez, Santa sure walks funny, I thought to myself. And he’s a lot skinnier than I thought. As he came closer to my house, I sensed something was off. I tried to get a better look at him. I wish I hadn’t.


Two ivory white eyes stared up at me. I jumped back, away from the window, and tripped over a train set I had left out. I got back up and took another look out the window, but he was gone. I heard my front door creak open, and my heart stopped. I jumped back into bed and pulled the covers up over my face.  


Someone was coming up the stairs.


I could feel my hot breath trapped under my covers. My heart pounded in my head. The sound of footsteps ascending the stairs was growing louder and clearer. I shut my eyes as hard as I could, hearing rumbling inside of my head. Then the footsteps stopped.


My door squeaked open. My breath shuttered with fear. The room flooded with light as my mother appeared in the doorway and flicked my lightswitch. A wave of relief washed over me when I realized it was just my mom.


“Are you alright?” She asked me.


“Yeah, I think I had a nightmare. Can I sleep with you?”


“Oh, buddy, probably not tonight. Your dad hasn’t come home yet, and you know how he is after being out all night…”  her voice trailed off.  


“Please, mom, I’m scared,” I replied.


“Sorry, buddy. Just think of something happy and try to fall back asleep,” she said.


She turned off the light and closed the door behind her. I tried to think of something that made me happy. I imagined myself riding bikes with my friends on a warm sunny day. I was pedaling as fast as I could, but I felt like I couldn’t move. The sky faded from bright blue to a dark, gloomy, gray. Then I felt him. I turned around and was met by the same face I saw outside of the window. I tried to pedal faster; my wheels were stuck in a mud puddle. I kept looking behind me, and he kept getting closer. He was going to catch me.  


I woke up in a cold sweat. I felt sick. My body ached. Dare I look out the window? What if he’s still there? Even worse, what if he isn’t?


I debated myself for a few minutes before I made my decision. As I walked over to my window, my heart pounded in my head like a drum. When I looked out the window, I could see the sun beginning to poke over the horizon and illuminate the forest below me. I scanned the treeline, looking for the thing I had seen in my dream. It wasn’t until my eyes swept over one specific tree that I noticed something was wrong. The old sycamore tree I climbed almost every day looked different. I knew every single branch on that tree like the back of my hand, but it seemed to have grown another one overnight. It wasn’t a branch.


My eyes slowly moved upwards as I tried to make sense of what it was. It looked like a man. I don’t know how I knew, but I could tell at that instant it was not human. It was both dead and alive—simultaneously blind and all-seeing. Maybe it was the gangling arms that draped down to its ankles, maybe it was the fingers that looked like little daggers, or maybe it was the emotionless eyes that lacked pupils. All I knew was that I wasn’t safe.

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